1. How did you come up with the idea to modernize the Hansel and Gretel story?
One day I decided I wanted to write a story with a great villain for kids. And I realized there was a witch—a woman—who ate children, caught them and threw them into her oven. Now that, I thought, was a villain! Next I thought about how in Hansel and Gretel it’s the parents who abandon their kids in the woods. So at once it came to me, although it might sound strange, that if the story happened in modern times, it really had to be a comedy.
As soon as I knew I was writing about a witch who ate kids, the first line popped into my head: "I love children. Eating them, that is." I remember writing it into the back of a notebook. There was no turning back then. I knew the witch herself had to tell us how and why she ate kids. And that we’d hear about the hapless kids who were given away by their parents to be eaten by her.
3. Do you have children? What do they think of the story?
No, my wife and I don’t have kids. My nephews and niece enjoyed the book. Kids get the imaginary, fanciful idea of the story. They seem evenly divided on whether it’s a bit scary or not.
I was thrilled to be a 2011 Texas Bluebonnet book and it’s amazing to see the book out in paperback now too. I do play with the idea of writing the rest of the witch Fay Holaderry’s journal, which is titled How to Cook and Eat Children. As you know, we read excerpts from her journal in The Witch’s Guide. She’s really a great character and close to my heart. I guess I’m a little like her.
Yes, it’s called The Hunter’s Log and should be out next year with Yoko Tanaka’s art. We pick Sol and Connie up right on the road leaving Holaderry’s town, Grand Creek. I do love Sol and Connie, the way they argue but stick together. That’s the way my brothers and I were. Now they’re facing double trouble: a witch and a cursed hunter. The Hunter’s Log is really adventurous and a bit harrowing. I think nine and ten year olds will enjoy it.
I always write when my mind is fresh in the morning, before I take in too much of the real world. Then I take breaks and write more. By late afternoon I’m usually spent. If I’m stuck I go for a long walk through the woods where there are beavers that hide, and lots of birds. Walking and thinking is part of the work, not just writing. I try to take every fourth day off.
I need to write freestyle until I really understand the characters and the story. Then I can outline to work out the structure of the story, how to roll it out for the listener. So it’s like the outline comes after the writing—after the first draft, say.
I’m wrapping up The Hunter’s Log, the sequel to The Witch’s Guide to Cooking with Children. I’m also working on two other kids books, one totally realistic about two smart, troublemaker boys in a school setting, and the other very imaginary that takes place in the future, a huge adventure with a funny cast of characters. I have so many books I want to write. But the first one to watch out for is The Hunter’s Log.
I was a voracious reader. I loved The Cricket in Times Square, Ramona the Pest, Treasure Island, and Harriet the Spy, among others.
I was given great advice when I started, although it may sound strange. An author told me, “Don’t be in a hurry to get published.” She was right—the point is to write a great story. I’d also say don’t get stuck on one book—better to finish it and get on to the next and the next, even if none are published. And join crit groups. Never give up.
If you want to know more about this amazing author, check out his website at: http://www.keithbooks.com/
Now for the giveaway!
*One entry per person.
*The winner will be notified by email.
*One copy of The Witch's Guide to Cooking With Children is the prize.
*Prize was made possible by the wonderful people at Square Fish/Henry Holt and Company.
*I will be mailing the prize and am not responsible if it does not reach the winner due to issues with the mail system.
*Contest will be open September 23rd-October 1, 2011.
*The winner will be emailed and have one day to respond before the next winner is selected.
*You do not have to be a follower to win, but it does gain you extra entries.
*To enter, you must fill out the contest form.